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TECHNICAL NOTES

TheScienceofSelfLubrication
DebunkingtheMythofLubedforLife
Introduction
Bearingandlinearguidemanufacturersmisuseofperformancebuzzwordssuchasselflubrication, maintenancefree,andlubedforlifehasledtoabroadmisunderstandingofwhatthesetermsactually mean.Thisconfusioncanleadtomisapplicationofproductsresultinginfailures,downtime,andbottom linelossesinproductivityanddollars. feltwicksmayextendthelifeofabearingsystem,they cannotbeclassifiedasselflubricating.They requiremaintenanceattentiontooillevelsthatdissipate,age,andbecomeineffectiveovertime. Truelubeforliferequiresthatthelubricationbeanintegralelementoftheoriginalbearingmaterial.To betrulyselflubricating,thelubricationcannotbeanaddon,doesnotbreakdown,andremainsapartof thebearingsmakeupforitsentirelifewithouttheneedforoutsidemaintenance.

WhatisSelfLubricating?
Selflubricationischaracterizedbythebearingsabilitytotransfermicroscopicamountsofmaterialtothe matingsurface.Thistransferprocesscreatesafilmthatprovideslubricationandreducesfrictionoverthe lengthoftherailorshaft.

TransferProcess
Thetransferprocessisanongoingdynamicfunctionoftheselflubricating bearingthatwillcontinuethroughoutitsoperationallife. Thefirstandmostcriticalstepintheprocessisthebreakinperiod.Thisis whentheinitialtransferofmaterialtothematingsurfacetakesplace.The amountofbearingmaterialaffectedduringthetransferisdependentupon multiplefactorsincludingthespeed,load,andlengthofstroke,etc.forthe application.Typicallytheinitialtransferprocesswillbeaccomplishedin 50100strokesofcontinuousoperation. Thesecondaryandongoingphaseofthetransferiswheretheself lubricationismosteffective.
Thetransferprocessdepositsamicroscopic filmontheshaftandinthevalleysofthe matingsurfacecreatingatrueself lubricatingcondition.

CommonMisconceptions
Cleveradvertisinggimmicksandinaccuratetrainingmaterialsareclaimingselflubricatingorlubedfor lifecapabilitiesforsystemsorcomponentsthatdonotfitthedefinitionofthelubricationbeinganintegral elementofthebearingmaterial.Belowisadescriptionofsomeofthesetypesofsystems.

TypesofNonSelfLubricatingSystems
RollingElementSystems Theseincluderotary(ballandroller)bearings,roundwaylinearball bearings,androllingelementprofiletypemonoraildesigns.Allof thesesystemsrequiresomekindofexternallubricationtooperate. Themetaltometalcontactoftherollingelementagainstthe racewaynecessitatesthattherebegreaseoroilpresentatalltimes. Ifthisexternallubricantisnotpresent,theballorrollerwillbeginto makedirectcontactwiththeshaftorrailmaterialresultingingalling andbrinellingdamage.Manymanufacturersattempttoovercome thisweaknessinthedesignbyaddingoilimpregnatedsealstothe endsofthebearingorhousing.Thisapproachcanresultinsome benefittothelifearolling Oilimpregnatedbronze Thesebronzebearingsareveryporousandhavelightweightoil soakedintothematerial.Undertheoptimumconditions,thisoilis drawntothebearingsurfacecreatingalubricatedlayerbetweenthe bearingandtheshaft. Graphitepluggedbronze Graphiteisagoodsolidlubricantthatisnormallyaddedtoabronzetypebearing.Solidplugsofgraphite areusuallyinsertedintoholesinthebasebronze. Tefloncoatedmaterials PTFEcanbeusedtocoatbearingsurfacesinseveralways.Itcanbeappliedaseitherapartofapowder simplydustingthebearing.Itcanbeasprayedmixturethatadherestothebearingsurface.Oritcanbe partofaliquidorgreasecompoundappliedtothebearing.Anyofthesemethodsresultsinaverythin layerofactuallubricantthatisquicklywornawayandbecomesineffective. Oilimpregnatedplastic Hereagain,lightweightoilisaddedtothebasematerialtoaidinbearinglubrication.Theresultis decreasedfrictioninitially,butlubricantaginganddissipationquicklyreduceitseffectiveness.

Whatmakesasystemselflubricating?
1.Thelubricationisanintegralcomponentofthebearingmaterial. 2. TheoilorgreaseisNOTaddedtotheoriginalbearingdesign. 3. TheoilorgreasewillNOTbreakdownandbeineffectiveovertime(lubricantageingoraging). 4. Theoilorgreaseisconsistentlyappliedtotheshaftsurface. 5. Additionalcomponentsdonotaddcosttotheoverallsystem. shaftorbearingdamageandreducesystemlife.(Doubleedgeswordofrollingelementbearings) Totrulybeselflubricating,abearingsystemmustdoexactly whatthenameimplies.Itmustprovideitsownlubrication throughoutthelifeofthesystemandnothavesomeexternal sourcefacilitatinglubricationforaperiodoftime.Itmustbe designedandmanufacturedintothebearingmaterialfromthe beginning.OneexampleofthisisPBCLinearsSimplicityself lubricatingliner.

TheAdvantagesofSimplicityFrelonLiner
Nometaltometalcontact Nogallingorbrinelling Noaddedlubricantstoattractadditionalcontaminants Dampensvibrationforsmoothandquietoperation Actualmaintenancefreeoperation

ProvenSuccessinPBCLinearProducts

SimplicityLinearPlaneBearings UniGuideModularGuides&System MiniRailMiniatureLinearguide

Summary
Thetermselflubricatingshouldnotevokeageneralizedmeaningthatpassivelyrepresentsabroadrange ofdifferenttechnologiesstrivingforthesameoutcome.Selflubricatingreferstoaspecificlinearmotion performanceadvantagemadepossiblebyauniqueproductdesignthatsatisfiesallaforementioned criteria:internallubricationsystem,noaddedgreaseoroils,nolubricationbreakdownandnoaddedcost. Inotherwords,selflubricatingmustensurethecleanandmaintenancefreeoperationinthemost challengingenvironments.Designersneedtolearntorecognizethedifferencebetweenthevarioustypesof lubricationoptions.Failuretodosowillresultincostlymisapplicationsandredesigns.
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